Meat imports up ahead of holiday
As the Chinese Lunar New Year draws near, global meat producers are rushing to meet the surging demand for protein on Chinese dining tables.
China’s meat imports have seen a significant rise in the past year as the government lifted bans to fill a gap in domestic supply.
The country began to import meat products from 16 more countries in 2019, with imported meat hitting 5.49 million tons in the first 11 months, climbing 42 percent year on year, Customs data showed.
In November, the country imported 644,000 tons of meat, surging 82 percent year on year, while pork imports increased 151.2 percent year on year to stand at 230,000 tons.
Hit by outbreaks of African swine fever, China’s pig herd shrank notably in the past year, pushing up prices of pork and its alternatives.
As the staple meat is key to many traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year, the country has announced various measures including boosting imports to ensure holiday supply.
The country’s pork-related imports were expected to top 3 million tons in 2019, while meat imports were estimated to exceed 6 million tons, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The increase in imports, coupled with pork reserves to be released and a recovery in domestic hog production, will help meet demand in the coming Chinese New Year, said Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Yu Kangzhen.
Among the incentives to encourage meat imports, the country recently removed a ban on imports of Japan’s deboned beef, while import tax on frozen pork was cut from 12 percent to 8 percent starting from this year.
Global exporters are stepping up production to cash in on the opportunity. Tony Stock, marketing manager of Prime Ranger Meats Limited, a New Zealand-based meat processing firm, said the company’s beef and lamb exports to China doubled last year.
“The Chinese market will continue to be our main export destination because of the very high demand for our natural meat products. The only concern we have at the moment is keeping up with demand,” said Stock.
Jacky Wang, procurement director of the Huaqiang Shines Industrial development (Dalian) Co Ltd, said prices of beef and mutton imported into China soared 30 percent in the past year while volume also increased some 20 percent.
“As an increasing number of Chinese crave alternatives to pork, demand for other kinds of meat has seen a significant rise,” he said.
The company sources beef and mutton from various countries including Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and Argentina, to China. It has signed contracts with dozens of new factories overseas, while inking a deal at the import expo in Shanghai in 2019 to import beef from Mexico for the first time.